Preserving Son Doong supersedes making profit
A group of ambassadors to Vietnam that recently completed an exploration of Son Doong, the world’s biggest cave, located in Vietnam’s north-central region, are opening up about the trip they have been calling an incredible experience.
The expedition included ambassadors from the Czech Republic, Argentina, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Australia.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski, Secretary-General of the Vietnam National Commission for UNESCO Pham Sanh Chau, Miss Universe Vietnam 2008 runner-up Duong Truong Thien Ly, and entrepreneur Dinh Minh also joined the group on the unforgettable trip.
The trip was held from May 11 to 17 and financed by each member’s personal funds.
It is the most beautiful place in the world, Swedish Ambassador Camilla Mellander told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper after returning from Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, where the cave is located.
The Swedish ambassador also said she felt lucky to have had the opportunity to see such a beautiful and unique sight, comparing the place with other natural wonders such as the icebergs in Greenland, the mountains in Nepal, and the grasslands in Mongolia.
She added that the size of the cave, the stone pillars formed by stalagmites and stalactites, the springs, and the vegetation were all incredible to witness and will help the experience stick with her for life.
Preservation is more important than profit
As their 5-day-4-night excursion was part of a campaign to promote tourism for Son Doong Cave and Vietnam in general, the ambassadors also noted the importance of preserving the site.
Ambassador Mellander told Tuoi Tre that she was very happy knowing that the Vietnamese government has taken steps to preserve the cave by limiting the number of tourists allowed to enter at any one time.
It shows that the Vietnamese government understands the uniqueness of the cave and its animal and plant population, home to seven new species that have recently been discovered and are in need of protection, she said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Malinowski warned that “Son Doong is not only beautiful – it is also very fragile.”
“It took nature millions of years to sculpt it, one drop of water and one grain of sand at a time. It would take human beings an instant to destroy it, if we chose to exploit it in the wrong way," Malinowski wrote in his statement posted on the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi’s Facebook page. “I am therefore very grateful to the people of Vietnam and to the authorities of Quang Binh Province for preserving Son Doong Cave in its natural state.”
“The sustainable tourism currently allowed in Son Doong, managed by professionals who have deep respect for the environment and for the community nearby, has protected the cave and provided jobs for many local people,” he added.
“It is no surprise that tourists to Quang Binh Province started increasing exactly when Son Doong was discovered. People around the world are impressed by Vietnam’s commitment to preserving its natural beauty and come to the area to see everything that they can.
“I hope that my children and grandchildren will be able to see this great treasure of Vietnam just as I did."
Tuoi Tre News - June 3, 2016
According to her, Son Doong is a rare heritage site so protecting it is more important than making a profit.
She also mentioned the similarities between Vietnam and Sweden as both countries understand that they must protect the environment for future generations.
“The cave is a pearl and I am sure that all Vietnamese people are proud of it,” she said.
Italian Ambassador Cecilia Piccioni also shared with Vietnam Television that the expedition was her dream-come-true.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski also remembered the trip as one of the “most memorable experiences” of his life.
“It lies in a hidden valley, which we could only access by passing through another cave,” the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi quoted Malinowski on its verified Facebook page. "Around every corner, we encountered images that seemed to be taken from abstract art or the illustrations to a fantasy story, not like anything we ever expected to encounter in the real world.”